EATON — It wasn’t your everyday, normal sighting at Wal-Mart: several police officers crowded the toy aisles – grabbing remote controlled cars, Barbie dolls, and LEGO play sets.
For a large portion of the evening on Wednesday, Dec. 9, members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Floyd E. Spitler Lodge 158 participated in their tenth annual Cops and Kids event. The FOP helped make a difference in the lives of 24 kids and nine families for this Holiday season.
“Over the last five years, we’ve helped well over 100 kids. We are really proud of that,” said Captain Brad Moore of the Preble County Sheriff’s Office. “Most of these families have fallen on hard times – whether it be for medical reasons, a factory closed up, lost their job, some of them have experienced some tragedy close to the holidays – so they all have their own story and we’re proud to help them out.”
The numbers were up this year for the event. On a yearly basis, the FOP generally helps between 15-18 children. But because of the generosity of the donations – most of it coming from members of the organization – they were allowed to increase that number substantially.
They also choose families from “all corners of the county” so each area is represented, said Moore.
Every child is required to get a new jacket, socks, underwear, shoes, and gloves, and then can spend the rest of their budget on whatever they want.
“The good Lord has timing. Timing is everything. We are able to get the boys some things for Christmas and ease the burden a whole lot off of us. It’s just awesome,” said Leon Chesnut, whose family was picked for the event. “I can’t brag on these guys enough. They went out of their way to make someone else’s life better. To me, that’s one of the most important things you can do or learn – to make someone else’s life better.”
The evening also serves as a source of outreach for the officers, and helps bridge a gap between cop and community.
The families got to eat dinner (catered by Bear Paw Catering) with the members of the FOP for around two hours, building relationships and learning about the officers’ families and personalities.
“It does help. It breaks down a wall. We’re people too, we just happen to wear a uniform and enforce the law,” said Moore.
The experience is always humbling for the officers taking part as well. Often times, the children shopping take a few hours to spend their money as they look at price tags and weigh their options, trying to budget so they can buy gifts for other family members.
But one thing is always true – this day means so much to all those involved.
It is best summarized by one of the young children shopping: “I’m going to be the coolest kid in school,” he said as he passed officers in the aisle.
Jeremy can be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.